Los Fresnos News

The Answer to PIISD Budget Shortfall? Rio Grande LNG Chapter 313 Agreement

Point Isabel Independent School District is wrestling with a $743,000 funding shortfall for the upcoming budget year after a state tax compression program known as Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) expires at the end of this fiscal year.

For every dollar the district collects in property taxes, a substantial amount must be paid to the state in recapture due to Robin Hood, also known as Chapter 41. Board Trustee Mickey Furcron was quoted in the July 6 issue of the Port Isabel Press as saying: “The easiest way to say it is for every dollar we collect, we give half of it (back).”

To make up for the budget shortfall, staff has run a number of models, including a tax increase and spending cuts. But I have a much better solution.

The school board should reconsider a Chapter 313 agreement with Rio Grande LNG, which would add millions of dollars in additional property tax revenue to its coffers over the course of the temporary agreement without raising its tax rate.

Chapter 313 is a state economic development tool that allows school districts to keep millions of local tax dollars rather than sending the money to Austin through the Robin Hood requirement.

If the agreement is put into place and the project moves forward, the district would keep approximately $1 million in additional property tax revenue a year during most of the 16 years that the agreement is in place.

When Rio Grande LNG representatives asked the school board to consider evaluating the benefits of an agreement last fall, four school board members – Alicia Baldovinos, Jennifer Pinkerton, Bertha Zamora, and Jimmy Vela – voted not to even consider it! They may be regretting that decision now that it’s even more clear that the district could use the revenues. Since the “no” vote, many Port Isabel residents have questioned the decision and expressed the desire for the board toreconsider.

If a Chapter 313 agreement with Rio Grande LNG is still an option, it would be a great solution to the school district’s budget shortfall. We can keep more tax dollars here, locally, to improve our children’s education, give teachers and staff well-deserved pay increases, and maintain and improve school facilities.

If, you, like me, feel that this agreement is the best option, ask PIISD board members to consider pursuing a Chapter 313 with Rio Grande LNG.

Our children and our teachers deserve more.

Gary Snyder is a Port Isabel resident and president of the Port Isabel Taxpayers League, Inc.